Welcome back to the Friday edition of Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers.
Today, we're playing host to a TLC Book Tours promotion starring a new to paperback title via William Morrow. It's a curious read with a curious title, but so very much heart. As I'm typing this post, I've quite literally just finished reading the book (work life has been zapping my reading time!), so pardon if my thoughts seem a bit on the wandering side of things because I'm still processing bits and pieces...however, with this particular turn through the pages, that might not be such a bad thing. Readers, prepare to don your most old Hollywood star getup as if it's the most natural thing in the world for today's book of choice absolutely begs it to be done. Our title in the spotlight...
Julia Claiborne Johnson
About the book....
A sparkling talent makes her fiction debut with this infectious novel that combines the charming pluck of Eloise, the poignant psychological quirks of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and the page-turning spirit of Where’d You Go, Bernadette.
Reclusive literary legend M. M. “Mimi” Banning has been holed up in her Bel Air mansion for years. But after falling prey to a Bernie Madoff-style ponzi scheme, she’s flat broke. Now Mimi must write a new book for the first time in decades, and to ensure the timely delivery of her manuscript, her New York publisher sends an assistant to monitor her progress. The prickly Mimi reluctantly complies—with a few stipulations: No Ivy-Leaguers or English majors. Must drive, cook, tidy. Computer whiz. Good with kids. Quiet, discreet, sane.
When Alice Whitley arrives at the Banning mansion, she’s put to work right away—as a full-time companion to Frank, the writer’s eccentric nine-year-old, a boy with the wit of Noel Coward, the wardrobe of a 1930s movie star, and very little in common with his fellow fourth-graders.
As she slowly gets to know Frank, Alice becomes consumed with finding out who Frank’s father is, how his gorgeous “piano teacher and itinerant male role model” Xander fits into the Banning family equation—and whether Mimi will ever finish that book.
Full of heart and countless “only-in-Hollywood” moments, Be Frank with Me is a captivating and unconventional story of an unusual mother and son, and the intrepid young woman who finds herself irresistibly pulled into their unforgettable world.
This was a curious read indeed.
We learn so much and yet so little, all the while our hearts are kept in our mouths wondering just what will unravel next.
What begins as a publisher providing assistance as well as a nudge to complete their quickly-becoming-overdue work, finishes with a tip of the hat, and a feminine curtsy. Alice is an open minded breath of fresh air in what could be viewed as a rather stale world. Though a literary giant in her heyday, her temporary boss is now a recluse...with a son no one seems to have known about. Curious information, but what's more interesting is the child himself. Frank is like an old Hollywood gentleman trapped in the body of a ten year old. He walks the walk, talks the talk, and even soft shoes the steps, but none of that nor his seemingly unlimited knowledge base win him any points with his classmates, random strangers, or life in general. Let's put it this way, you or your kids get up on a Saturday morning and what, keep your pajamas on or grab jeans and a tee while planning some shopping trip or outdoor adventure for the day, right? Our friend Frank prefers a morning suit complete with top hat, the company of his family only, and getting lost in his own imagination. Fitting in is not something in his vocabulary, extensive though it may be, and though there are those that would snuff out his individuality in a heart beat, that doesn't mean that they know what's best...and thank goodness there is someone there to be the voice of reason!
Alice is that voice 9 times out of 10. Though she should be tracking the progress Mimi's making on "the book", she's pretty much a glorified babysitter/housekeeper. Is that a bad thing? At first, yeah...I mean that's not what she thought she was getting herself into, but as she gets to know her young charge, rules and all, she realizes those bumps along the way were more than worth the experience. It was heartwarming to see them grow so close, even when his own tendencies placed an insurmountable wedge between them. What was the wedge? Some things are better left unnamed...it seems they have less power then, but suffice it to say, it will be with him his whole life; an unwelcome visitor that overstays time and again.
In the end, I was a bit perplexed by the conclusion. There were several keys points that I felt were left undone. What happens to Mimi? What's the REAL story with her and Mr. Vargas? Will Frank in fact be okay? Does Xander ever straighten up? What of Alice after all is said and done? So many questions floating through my mind, and yet...I can't help also wondering if THAT was intentional. If maybe, I didn't actually miss anything, but the natural transgression of life is into the unknown and while the book is largely a flashback on events that transpired, knowing the future is not a gift any of us can claim so why should we be provided that magic mirror? Perhaps it's being left to our imaginations to ponder what happened next as the characters go about their lives long after our eyes have left the page. Either way, I enjoyed my time getting to know this interesting set of family and friends, but my heart will hold a special place for our little star...complete with a hatbox awaiting the return of his favorite accessory.
About the author...
|Photo by Christa Parravani|
Julia Claiborne Johnson worked at Mademoiselle and Glamour magazines before marrying and moving to Los Angeles, where she lives with her comedy-writer husband and their two children.
Special thanks to Trish at TLC Book Tours for the chance to bring this promotion to you as well as the marketing team at HarperCollins for the copy for review. (THANKS!) For more information on this title, the author, the publisher, THIS TOUR, or those on the horizon, feel free to click through the links provided above. This title is available now via William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins, so be on the lookout for it on a bookstore shelf or virtual retailer of your choosing.
Until next time, remember...if it looks good, READ IT!